by Cesca Janece Waterfield
She appears in the current Essence Magazine, in a four-page feature. She’s host of Food Network’s “Cooking for Real,” which just entered its seventh season, and Viva brand paper towels signed her to a national endorsement deal starring Sunny and her kitchen in a national campaign.
“I don’t know if hitting my stride is the right word,” she says. “I’m just really having a good time.”
Today Sunny is at ease being a major buzz. But it wasn’t always that way. In late 2005, she was a radio announcer in New York City with a small catering business. As frequent host to high-profile hip hop stars, she thought baked goods and home-cooked snacks would loosen up visitors and satisfy food cravings. Soon famous acts were requesting her exclusively – including one well-known New Orleans chef.
Bam! – “I get a message from the radio station saying Emeril’s people are looking for you,” Sunny remembers. “I was blown away. He’s like the godfather for my generation. I pride myself on being decent with words. All I could say was, ‘What? What?”
Not bad for a business that almost didn’t happen. She appeared on Emeril Live and was soon working with Food Network to develop her own show. While she hasn’t received culinary training, as the daughter of a career Army officer, she has enjoyed diverse experiences with food. Her parents were foodies before the term had been invented. “All of the moving we did before we went overseas, it was all about eating,” Sunny admits. “Then one day my dad came home with these tapes with the German flag on it and he wanted us to learn German. And it was mostly so we could order in restaurants!”
With the family stationed in Germany, Sunny visited Amsterdam, England, France and Italy and became fluent in German.
“So there were these unique moments as a child when I was opened to all of these flavors,” she says.
The Family Business – After high school graduation, she couldn’t wait to settle down, right? Not quite. Instead, she joined the Air Force.
“As soon as I could break free, I jumped right back in,” Sunny says. “I joined the family business.”
She worked as a broadcaster and set her sights on one day conquering a national market. But more importantly, she remembers, “Dude, the food was so good.”
After being honorably discharged in ‘97, Sunny worked in radio in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Detroit, Michigan. She moved to New York City in 2001 where she was a radio personality for HOT 97. It was there that she began her catering company Sunny’s Delicious Dishes – and a stellar food career that is still rising.
Settling Down – Sort Of – The wanderlust she developed as a child remains. Today, however, she says she has found home in New York and has limited her moves to different neighborhoods in Brooklyn. An avid gardener, she’s managed to continue that hobby in the city that never sleeps.
“I can’t wait to break ground in the garden. If you go down to the bottom of my blog, there’s a garden link. I love it. The best thing about spring is outdoor eating. Yesterday we took a walk out in my neighborhood. There’s a changing of the guard of food, from hot to cold. I love grilling and giving the stove a break.”
And she’s planning a cookbook. Although there’s no publishing date yet, she’s developing recipes. “I’m hungry! People who like music they’ll think about beautiful arias. I’ll sit and think about food.”
Sunny’s Specialty: I love to brine. I brine meat a lot, anything. I say like a gallon of water, half a cup of salt and half a cup of sugar. Soak your meat in it overnight – beef, pork, turkey. Oh my god, if you don’t brine your turkey for Thanksgiving you’re crazy.
Favorite Childhood Food: My mom’s mac and cheese and my grandma’s red velvet cake. And pudding, which is not pudding, it’s like blood sausage. And pork chops and fried chicken and greens. But the mac and cheese, that’s pretty much it. If I go home and there’s no mac and cheese, that’s a problem.
Guilty Pleasure: Okay, two things: One is no cooking at all. I like to eat a frozen Snickers bar from time to time. Then, I love nothing more than putting anything in a tortilla.
Visit Sunny’s blog at sunnyanderson.blogspot.com